Davalynn Spencer here, welcoming author Kathleen Rouser with her historical romance, Secrets and Wishes, set in Stone Creek, Michigan, in 1901.
Kathleen, please give us a brief overview of the story.
Widowed Maggie Galloway and Thomas Harper clash after their sons collide in a fistfight. When an epidemic reaches Stone Creek and a snake-oil salesman’s potions put innocent children in danger, Thomas and Maggie must work together to save lives. Maggie not only battles to help the townsfolk, she also battles to know which man—Thomas or her former beau—deserves to win her heart.
What an intriguing plot. I understand this book is part of a series. What led you to write this story?
Maggie Galloway was a character in my first book in the Stone Creek series, Rumors and Promises. She was the sister of hero Rev. Ian McCormick. Writing their sibling banter was fun. She really seemed to come alive, so I created a story around her. She’s a widow with a young son looking for a way to earn a living. Placing in a national baking contest sparks her hope to open a bakery in her hometown.
Enter Thomas Harper, the new town druggist, a grieving widower with four unruly children. They need each other and to trust the Lord more than they realize.
Part of my inspiration was my love of family and bringing up my three sons. I enjoyed writing about the children too and how both families grew to care for one another.
Did anything surprise you as you put this story together?
A subplot in Secrets and Wishes involved the deadly consequences of a traveling snake oil salesman’s chicanery. I was surprised to learn that often the content of their potions and so-called cure-alls contained a great amount of alcohol and narcotics. Consequently, often people became addicted or died from taking them. Until the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, Americans were really at the mercy of the latest panacea pusher.
This sounds like a true life-and-death situation. Did you find it easy to share Christ in your writing?
My goal is to weave the message of Christ into my main characters’ lives. If the character is a Christian, their faith may be challenged by a difficult person or situation, so they’ll need to work that out with the Lord. If they aren’t a believer, then they are drawn to Christ in what I hope would come across in a way that is organic to the situation. It could be through a trusted friend, reading the Bible, having heard a message that prompts them, or perhaps a memory from their past. The same approach is taken in working out challenges in their faith as well.
Do you have themes to which you return again and again in your writing?
Probably redemption, trusting God when things look bleak, and identity—whether in Christ or finding one’s place in a physical family.
When did you first recognize God’s call to write for Him?
It’s sort of humorous, but I wanted to be a writer before I could even read—when I was only four. My mom read to me, and I loved the world of stories. I had hoped to be an illustrator as well, but my art skills weren’t up to the challenge. Then I was encouraged to write by my favorite teacher, a college professor, and my much older brother, who was also a writer. By the time I gave my life to the Lord at 21, I knew that I wanted to write for Him. But I got busy being a mom and homeschooling. For me, taking on writing as well, would have been too much, so my desire to write went on the back burner until my kids grew a little more self-sufficient.
Over the years, that desire still burned in my heart, and I felt quite convicted of “burying my talents” after hearing a message about the parable of … the talents. I believe God put that call on my heart as a child, because I often second-guess myself and lack confidence. And I can always go back to that time of my life and remember.
Are you involved in other ministries, and if so, why did you choose them?
I’ve been a Community Bible Study children’s teacher for quite a few years. I worked a few years teaching first through third grade, and the last four years I’ve been teaching middle graders. It’s a delight teaching the Bible to these homeschooled kids who are eager to learn. It’s important for me to impart the truth to the next generation. CBS is a wonderful worldwide ministry with a very helpful format for truly digging into and learning from God’s word. Besides, I really enjoy working with kids. Sadly, I don’t have any grandchildren, so this helps fill that void too.
AWOL (All Worthy of Love) is another ministry I appreciate. On the third Tuesday of the month, we pack bags with toiletries and food. These are taken to street missionaries who give them out to trafficked young people caught in prostitution. They are spoken with, prayed with if they desire, and given the supplies and an opportunity to be rescued. I’m thankful to be able to do some small thing to fight the injustice of human trafficking.
Do you have talents aside from storytelling?
I enjoy making jewelry for family and friends as gifts. I pray about what an individual would like, think about their favorite colors, and then design a piece unique to them. I started out with beads, then I enrolled in a metalsmithing class. Since then, I learned how to wire wrap stones and I’ve made various pieces of jewelry.
Since my mom was a good cook and baker, she taught me how to make a mean pie crust. I do enjoy baking and have crafted a chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe with special ingredients and a mocha fudge brownie concoction too. If it wasn’t just my husband and me at home, I’d bake much more often.
Tell us about your favorite library memory.
I have many nice memories of taking my children to the library with a laundry basket in hand, so we could bring our treasure trove of books home. But I would say my favorite memory is when my dad took me to the library to sign up for my first library card. Sadly, I don’t have a lot of good memories of him, but I do remember how he took me to that wonderful building filled with books you could check out and read. It awed me at the time. The Royal Oak library possessed that unique tang of paper and ink in the air, kind of dusty, kind of sweet, and a little odd. He explained to me solemnly that the library belonged to the taxpayers and allowed us to borrow any book we wanted as though it were a sacred trust. There I signed my first card with my iffy, newly acquired cursive handwriting. It seemed magical to have so many stories available that I could bring home and read.
With such a lifelong love of reading and writing, have you had pets along the way that inspired or hindered you?
My first cat, Lilybits, was a six and a half pound furball rescue full of personality and cattitude. She inspired my blog as “Lilybits, the Tailless Wonder,” and she was my muse as she was a cuddly lap cat. I spent countless hours with her sleeping right next to the laptop as I wrote.
She has been gone for three years. Now I have two litter mates, Opal and Ruby, (aka Bopes and Pooberry—long story) who are almost three. They are sweet kitties, who sit with me on their own terms. They can be a comfort on a tough writing day and can occasionally be a hindrance when they want attention. Ruby sometimes like to roll on top of my keyboard since she prefers to be the center of attention.